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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Are You Building A Church of Leaders?

BlocksIn any growing, vibrant organization, the multiplication of leadership involves continuous cultivation of an environment where leadership is welcomed and encouraged to grow. When you’ve built a church where new leadership is valued and embraced, the impact God can have through your ministry is greater than you could have imagined.  Tony Morgan from Granger Community Church shares these comments in a recent article at The Church Report:

As a leader, you can begin cultivating that environment by doing the following:

Communicate a Big Vision. Remind People Frequently. Then Do it Again.
Particularly with ministry, where leaders are usually volunteering their time, they need to know they’re investing in something of significance – something big. One of your primary roles as a leader is to frequently remind people of the mission God has called you to accomplish as a church. Without a compelling vision, you’ll never attract high-capacity leaders.

Point to the Destination. Let Others Determine How to Get There.
Your job is vision. You get to set expectations – and even remind people of the values that should shape decisions and actions. When you begin to tell people specifically how to do it, they assume you don’t need a leader. Leaders need to own it.

Find People Who Are Smarter Than You – and Give Them the Keys to the Car.
Leaders who don’t have a chance to have an influence will take their influence elsewhere. Give people the freedom to succeed. Do everything you can to help them win. Again, you’re not letting them drive anywhere they want. You get to identify the destination and help get them back on track if they get lost. You just have to remember that leaders don’t want to be passengers – they want the chance to drive.

Think Relationships Before You Think Results.
You must invest your time with other key leaders and potential leaders; and encourage them to do the same. You can’t do it alone. It takes a team of empowered leaders to take ministry to the next level. What are you doing to multiply and release the leadership potential in your church? Are you creating an environment where high-capacity leaders are welcomed and challenged to be all that God created them to be? That may be your biggest challenge as a leader.

10 Easy Ways to Know You’re Not a Leader
As you’re considering your influence or evaluating the potential of others, this list will help you identify leadership capacity or, more specifically, where it may be lacking.

1.  You’re waiting on a bigger staff and more money to accomplish your vision.
2.  You think you need to be in charge to have influence.
3.  You’re content.
4.  You tend to foster division instead of generating helpful dialogue.
5.  You think you need to say something to be heard.
6.  You find it easier to blame others for your circumstances than to take responsibility for solutions.
7.  It’s been some time since you said, “I messed up.”
8.  You’re driven by the task instead of the relationships and the vision.
9.  Your dreams are so small, people think they can be achieved.
10.  No one is following you.

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January 31, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (43) | TrackBack

MegaChurch in a Box! Get Yours Today!

Megachurch_2This is just out from Blogs4God.  I've already ordered Ricky and Bernie a copy!

Yes you too can become the next Joel Osteen. As if the folks over at Turtle Interactive aren't busy enough with their primo web site, blog and ecommerce design service - now news comes out of Minneapolis, Minnesota that Tim Bednar is taking full advantage of his charter that allows the company to engage in 'all things legal' and has created a computer game subsidiary entitled 'Empire.'

Along with this announcement, Bednar has shocked the gaming industry by coupling his new endeavor with the immediate release of the first of what is hopefully to become the first many computer simulation games targeting great cloud of witlessness who are seeking to ditch their old community-based churches and pimped their pews up ... 'Mega Church Game'

Yes you too can become the next Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Put together a worship service exactly the way YOU want: hymns, no hymns, drums, no drums. Are you from Wisconsin? Simulate a Polka Mass! Model a building campaign, ask for donations. Also included are features that allow you to:

  • Pastor a simulated church that and create your own Christian empire.
  • Build a church from the ground up, customize your staff, control budgets and more.
  • Hire and fire staff and deal with idiots, naive volunteers, and denominational egos.
  • Attract fickle unchurched people with Bingo, revival meetings or fasting--it is all up to you!
  • Select congregants from a pre-loaded community library.

See what the critics are saying about this product:

"With network play enabled, you can steal members from other churches and earn points just like you saved them yourself. The possibilities are endless!" - Ted Olsen, Christianity Today

"Prayer, study and preparation get thrown in there too--and the mysterious will of God!" - Hank Hanegraaff, Christian Research Institute

"Oh, the variations and the possibilities. Denominations and Bible colleges use it to prepare potential church planters or associate pastors just like flight simulators train pilots. It is better than an internship!" - J. Lee Grady, Charisma Magazine

Ready-out-of-the-box for your PC, Mac, X-Box and Commodore 64... this game is available exclusively via Amazon.com for the low-low price of 38.99 or three easy payments of $13 a piece!

Don't delay - quantities are limited.

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January 31, 2006 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

This Could Be the End of the Paulk Dynasty

Earl It's the fourth time a major sex scandal has hit this one church over the years.  What's worse, it's the fourth time that the sex scandal has involved Earl Paulk, the 'bishop'/pastor of Chapel Hill Harvester Church near Atlanta.  Just a few hundred were in attendance in the sanctuary that holds 7700 people on Sunday.  It seems that most people have finally deserted Earl (and his brother Don, who is also implicated in the scandal).  Most of the reason, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution is that the people that have supported Paulk for years this time find themselves involved in the very scandal itself.  Most have run for the hills.

According to the article: 

Norma, Paulk's wife of six decades, sat to his right.

But gone were some of his most faithful followers.

They had helped Paulk, 78, build his little church into a flock of 12,000 that caught the attention of presidents. Then they had stood by him as the church hemorrhaged members and money after two scandals that drew national attention.

They had believed him when he denied allegations of adultery and child molestation by saying his accusers were under demonic influence.

Now, they are his accusers.

[I'll include a little more of the article here, not to serve as gossip, but as a wake up call of what can happen when there is no accountability; and hopefully I'll tie this in to some of our recent conversations here at MMI at the end of this article].

Cindy Hall, 44, was the first baby born into the church that Paulk founded in 1960. In 2003, she burst into tears over dinner and told her husband, Greg, "We have to get out of there." She says Paulk coerced her into an 11-year affair that included having sex with his brother.

Mona Brewer, 45, taught in the church's school and delivered gospel solos on Sundays with raw passion. Paulk himself set the date for her marriage to one of his closest friends. Two years after the wedding, she says, Paulk betrayed that friend by manipulating her into a sexual relationship that lasted 14 years.

Her husband, Bobby Brewer, 58, a former pastor at the church, had spent his life under Paulk's leadership. Paulk called him his "spiritual son." Over half a century he gave Paulk his loyalty, his time and considerable sums of money.

His relationship with his mentor ended dramatically in 2004 when, as a wronged husband, he punched Paulk in the face.

The Brewers are suing the bishop and his church, saying the bishop used his religious influence to seduce Mona. Hall is expected to be a witness on their behalf.

Louis Levenson, the lawyer representing the Brewers, said he expects a trial filled with sordid revelations. "There's never been an opportunity for various allegations to be aired," Levenson said. "It's time for that to happen."

Paulk denied the Brewers' allegations in court papers. But Dennis Brewer, his Texas attorney (no relation to Bobby and Mona) acknowledged a sexual relationship between the bishop and Mona Brewer.

"About nine years ago, there were two or three incidents wherein she was the aggressor," he said in a telephone interview.

The lawyer said the bishop had "absolutely not" had a sexual relationship with Cindy Hall, and that Don Paulk, the bishop's brother who is also his client, "absolutely denies" having sex with Hall.

He said he thinks Hall and Mona Brewer are "writing a book or want to ... be movie stars."

In leaving the cathedral, the Halls and the Brewers altered much more than their Sunday morning routines. Both couples lived in a nearby neighborhood heavily populated with Chapel Hill members. Their children attended the church's private academy. They socialized almost exclusively with other Chapel Hill Harvester families, including the Paulks. And, all four worked at the church.

They have changed almost every aspect of their lives.

The sense of community was a critical part of the success of Chapel Hill Harvester.

One of the country's first great independent megachurches, it gained an international reputation for combining liturgical arts, such as dance and drama, with cutting-edge social ministry.

Now, both the church and Paulk are weakened.

In 1992, six women accused Paulk, his brother and two nephews — all ministers — of sexual manipulation. In seducing them, the women said, the men had talked about "special" or "kingdom" relationships not bound by earthly interpretations of morality.

One of the six, the bishop's biographer and ghostwriter, Tricia Weeks, said in interviews at the time that she had had a two-year affair with him.

Newspapers from Boston to San Francisco ran articles about the scandal, and the women were featured on the television program "A Current Affair."

Paulk denied having a sexual relationship with Weeks and scoffed at a sexual interpretation of kingdom relationships. He painted her as mentally unstable or under the influence of evil.

But, in the midst of the 1992 scandal, he admitted an adulterous affair 32 years earlier.

Bobby Brewer never considered that Paulk might be lying about Weeks.

"I am ashamed to say this, but I never gave Tricia Weeks one ounce of credibility," he recalled later.

Brewer stuck by his mentor. When the church's offerings fell perilously, he said, he underwrote loans to meet the payroll.

Although he had stopped regularly selling real estate when he went on the cathedral staff, Brewer was living well off real estate investments. As he had made business decisions that benefited the church and built up the area around it, his own wealth accumulated.

He said he helped pay for a new Lexus for Earl Paulk and bought a Ford Crown Victoria for Paulk's wife.

He began giving the double tithe he had always contributed — at least 20 percent of his income — directly to a separate ministry set up by the bishop rather than to the church.

In 1998, Brewer built a home for himself and Mona on property adjoining land he had sold to Paulk for a house behind the cathedral. The proximity seemed providential a year later when Brewer rescued the bishop's wife, Norma, from a fire that destroyed the Paulk house. He earned a citation for heroism from the DeKalb County Fire Department.

He tried to attend every function where Paulk would appear.

"I felt like if Jesus is on the planet and he's got something to say, I want to be around to hear it," he said.

A claim of molestation

His faith in Paulk would be tested again.

By 2001, the church had gained new members and seemed to have recovered from the 1992 scandal. But a new one was breaking.

Jessica Battle, a college student who had been a dancer in the church's arts ministry, filed suit in DeKalb State Court alleging that Paulk had molested her from the time she was 7 until she was 11 years old. Battle also accused him of forcing intercourse on her when she was 17.

Battle's grandmother, Lynn Mays, an influential pastor on staff, defended Paulk and blamed Satan for her granddaughter's lawsuit.

Although Brewer had known Battle since she was born, when the choice came down to her word against Paulk's, his loyalty lay with Paulk.

Brewer claims in his current lawsuit that he lent $400,000 to Paulk to help settle the Battle lawsuit in 2003.

The settlement didn't solve the church's problems, though. Again, as in 1992, members left and offerings fell.

To help the church overcome the financial fallout, Brewer led the effort to refinance the remaining $13 million debt on the cathedral to lower the payments.

He was in the midst of that work in February 2004, when he went to a basketball game at the church's private school.

As he watched the game with Mona, Paulk walked up. Brewer offered his seat, but the bishop said he couldn't stay.

Brewer looked back at the game — the church's team was winning — then glanced at his wife. She was obviously uncomfortable.

Lately she had seemed emotionally fragile. She had quit her job at the church, but had never given him a good reason.

Brewer noticed the way the bishop's hand touched her shoulder, then he saw the look in Paulk's eye.

Later that morning, he met Mona on the front porch as she returned from her daily walk.

He was concerned, he told her. Was there something going on with Earl Paulk?

A mission to be a mistress

The tearful account she gave Bobby — and later repeated in a deposition in the lawsuit and in interviews — reached back to 1989, when the Brewers had been married about two years and Mona, not yet 30, was teaching at the church academy:

One day in the church offices, she told her husband, Paulk had said he felt "impressed of the Lord" to get to know her better. She felt honored. She stopped by his offices the next day as he had asked, and they chatted about themselves.

He invited her to come again the next week.

Soon after her next visit, a church official gave her a "word of knowledge" — a prophetic statement — that she was about to start a new relationship that would benefit her greatly.

A month later, Mona said, she was asked to meet Paulk in the parking lot at South DeKalb Mall.

He took her to his house, she said, explaining that his wife was gone and that he wanted to talk to her without interruption. This time, after they talked, he kissed her on the mouth. She was shocked but didn't protest, she said.

The next day, Mona said, the church official told her that the bishop was dying and his wife was not treating him well. Without him, the kingdom message would die and God would have to start all over. Mona had an opportunity to save the bishop's life, the church, and the kingdom of God.

At their next meeting, Mona said, Paulk took her through a garage underneath his house into a basement bedroom where he told her he was going to have to love her.

She was scared to death.

At that moment, she said, "I realized what the whole thing was leading to."

But, she said, she obeyed him — as she had been taught — when he told her to undress.

It was Sept. 12, 1989.

She remembered the date, she explained, because Paulk had asked her to mark that first sexual encounter as their anniversary.

The following Sunday, Paulk preached that when you are in despair, God will send you a resurrection.

Later, he told her she was his resurrection.

Sex and household chores

Over the years, she said, she and Paulk often met in parking lots, and Paulk asked her to crouch down in the car to avoid being seen.

She started wearing the shorter skirts and high heels the bishop liked, and eventually she cut her long, rich hair — which Bobby loved — because Paulk told her frequently that she was a short-hair girl.

And, she said, at Paulk's insistence, she had sex twice with a visiting evangelist who came into town for counseling.

At first, she said, she met Paulk once a week; later, more frequently.

She cleaned his house, fed his horses and helped with his wife's dinner parties.

She prayed that God would make up for her absence with her own family.

Although she had been having sex with Paulk herself, she said, she believed his denials of accusations by Weeks in 1992 and Battle in 2001. She thought she was saving the world. Why would he need another woman?

But as the years wore on, Mona told her husband, she started to question whether the relationship with Paulk was really blessed.

In September 2003 — 14 years after their sexual relationship began — she built up the nerve to break it off.

When she and Paulk had walked down to his barn together to feed his horses, she said, she put her finger in his face and told him that he had tricked her. Their relationship was not of God. It was wrong. And what they had done to Bobby was wrong.

The bishop's main concern, she said, was that she keep quiet.

She planned never to tell anyone, even Bobby, what had happened.

She felt so ashamed that she contemplated killing herself, she said, but couldn't face the possibility that her children might think they were somehow at fault. She would even fantasize ways of taking her life.

About five months later, on her walk through the neighborhood, she met Cindy Hall, who had been the first child born into Paulk's ministry.

For years the two women had shared the limelight as featured singers at Chapel Hill. Hall and her husband, Greg, had left the church. Mona had wanted to check on her.

I know what they did to you, Hall told Mona. You're not the only one.

Frightened but obedient

Here is Hall's account, given to Mona Brewer and in a deposition and interviews:

In 1983, when she was working at the church, Hall said, she was called to a church office. She thought she must have said or done something inappropriate.

Paulk, sitting in a big rocking chair, told her she was a special handmaiden of the Lord who had been placed in his life for a special cause — serving the kingdom of God.

He prayed for her. Then, Paulk held her face in his hands and kissed her.

When he let her go, she said, he said he intended to make love to her.

She thought he must mean something spiritual. In those days, Paulk often preached about kingdom relationships.

She knew, at 22, not to question the spiritual authority of the bishop, who was then in his 50s.

She had been born under his leadership. Her parents had urged him to start a new church back in 1960 after he left Hemphill Church of God amid rumors of adultery. They assumed he was being falsely accused.

Paulk had prayed over her and his daughter Beth when they were children, saying he was symbolically "covering them in the blood." If you were covered in the blood — referring to Jesus' death on the cross — nothing could harm you.

She had admired and feared Paulk all her life.

She consented without question when she was asked to meet Paulk in a parking lot.

When they were alone in his car, he asked her whether she trusted him. She said she did.

It was a mantra at the church that "the kingdom of God is built on trust."

Paulk drove into his basement garage. In an adjoining bedroom, he pulled up the skirt of her sundress and removed her panties.

She was frightened but passively went along.

When it was over, she felt stunned.

She told him that all her life she had been taught adultery was wrong.

When she had married Greg Hall in 1980 — in a wedding complete with twelve bridesmaids in buttercup dresses — Paulk himself had pronounced them husband and wife.

Now, he told her, he and she had a special gift of love outside holy matrimony.

She could hardly comprehend what he was saying.

Soon, they would have sex every Saturday morning during his wife's hair appointment.

Even then, she always called him "Bishop."

'Stand by your man'

The relationship took an emotional toll. In church, inexplicably, she would start to cry.

Eventually, Hall said, Paulk began telling her about having sex with other women — including Mona Brewer — and introducing her to the idea of being with other men.

In 1992, when his brother Don Paulk stepped down from the pulpit briefly after confessing adultery, she said, Paulk asked her to have sex with him to make him feel better. Once, the brothers took turns with her.

Soon after that, her intimacy with the bishop began to taper off.

By the mid-1990s, they were no longer having sex. But she and her husband, Greg, continued to attend the church, and Cindy stayed on the staff. She even helped Norma, Paulk's wife, write an advice book called "Stand By Your Man."

But as the Jessica Battle case proceeded, Hall said, she became convinced Battle was telling the truth.

Over dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant in early 2003, she burst into tears and told Greg they had to leave the church.

Later, she told him why.

She had been gone for almost a year when she ran into Mona Brewer in 2004.

Tell Bobby everything and get out, she advised.

It was Friday. Mona decided she would tell Bobby after church on Sunday.

The next morning she went with him to the basketball game.

Bible verses and fisticuffs

Bobby Brewer was shaken by his wife's revelation that she had been sexually involved for 14 years with a man who was his father figure, spiritual leader, boss and friend. The pain was so great, he said later, that he went numb, unable to bear it.

"It was like a giant puzzle," he said. "All of a sudden, every piece fell into place. Things I had not understood made sense."

He now felt he knew why Paulk had sometimes seemed possessive and overbearing with Mona when they were together, and why Paulk had insisted that the Brewers build a house next to his in 1998.

For a week after their conversation, Bobby worked with Paulk every day, arranging the refinancing of the church. He was reeling from his wife's revelations, but determined to save the cathedral he had helped build. As he sat in meetings with Paulk, his emotions ran the gamut from fury to depression, but he kept them in check.

Once the refinancing papers were signed in early March 2004, he was ready for a showdown.

He invited Earl and Don Paulk and their wives to his house, implying he was about to make a significant donation. He asked James Powers, another minister at the church, to come as a witness.

Mona was knitting to calm her nerves.

When everyone was in place, Bobby read a passage from Proverbs: "He who commits adultery ... destroys himself. ... For jealousy arouses a husband's fury and he shows no restraint when he takes revenge. ... He will not accept any compensation."

He then accused Paulk, in the coarsest terms, of sleeping with Mona.

He said he hoped the bishop would acknowledge his sins, apologize and repent. Instead, he said, the bishop replied that he had lawyers.

Livid, Brewer stood over Paulk and grabbed his lapels.

Don Paulk tried to intercede with his arm cocked. Brewer threw a punch that knocked him into the kitchen.

Then, Earl Paulk stood up. Brewer swung his fist into the bishop's nose and Paulk fell to the floor.

Don Paulk came back; Brewer hit him again.

After the Paulks left, Mona cleaned up the blood.

[OK... Todd's back].  We've had this discussion before... how in the world does this type of thing happen? 

This is probably the worst case of church abuse that I've heard of; and I think it rose out of two different, but very strong things:  a lack of accountability coupled with an atmosphere of fear.

No one was around to keep Earl and Don in check; and as the people and money started pouring in; they built a personal kingdom based on their tight control.  This control dicated what they preached, how they lead, and ultimately evidently led them to overt sexual sin on such a regular basis that it was their common lifestyle.  And they used scripture to get what they wanted.  All the while; they continue to manage the fort and 'preach the word' as late as last Sunday.

People eventually find out.  The truth usually does surface.  But just think of all the spiritual refugees that are out there now just because a couple of old pastor dudes couldn't control their own pants.

I'm not sure what else to say.  Maybe some of you have some soothing words on this one.  I can't seem to find any.


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January 31, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (56) | TrackBack

Why Don't People Sing During Worship

SingTo all of you worship pastors out there, I feel for you.  How many Sundays have you gone home thinking that you were a failure because it just didn't seem like people were involved in worship (excited, singing, outwardly worshipping)?

Well, we all know that it's hard to discern whether someone is deep in worship from their outward appearance; and that we shouldn't use such a lame scale as our guage of effectiveness (yet we many times do).

David Delgado offers these top ten reasons why people don't sing.  Some have spiritual ramifications; but some don't.  I thought this was an interesting list to ponder:

10. You have played that song every week since 1999.
9. They don't know the song.
8. The Key of the song is too high or too low.
7. The music is too loud or too soft.
6. The worship leader is doing to many voice inflections and the melody can not be followed.
5. They have not been taught that it is ok.
4. They don't like thier voice/they don't like to.
3. They have not engaged thier hearts and minds and strength.
2. They just came for the donuts.
1. They are hurting and don't feel like it.

Any thoughts?


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January 31, 2006 in Worship | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Driscoll: The Future of the Multi-Site Church

Future Mark Driscoll is the Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Seattle, Washington.  I think you'll find his take on multi-site churches interesting. Mark addresses what he thinks the future holds for multi-site churches.  I think it's important for all of us who are in or are interested in multi-site churches to know what is happening in this area.  It is a growing trend that I think you'll either find yourself involved in or being effected by in the next decade.  Mark writes:

In 1996, at the age of twenty-five, I began gathering a core group for what would become Mars Hill Church in Seattle. We started with a small Bible study in a home my wife Grace and I rented in Seattle, eventually opening with a public service in October of that year with perhaps 150 or so people in attendance. Within a year we expanded to two services—both in the evening.

Over the years, obtaining adequate Sunday meeting space has been a tremendous difficulty, as it is for most growing urban churches. At one point I was actually preaching six long sermons (more than an hour each) in three locations throughout the city and driving between them like an old Methodist circuit rider. To help alleviate our burgeoning young church we started sending out people with various church plants but that did not relieve any pressure on our over-capacity services.

We eventually purchased a 40,000 square foot warehouse that we renovated to seat 1,300 people. We began worshipping in that space nearly three years ago with services at 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Since that time we have continued adding services (we now have five each Sunday) yet we have again outgrown our facility. We investigated every available large room for purchase or rental to no avail, and found the costs and time associated with building a larger space essentially out of reach due to zoning restrictions and costs.

So, we began researching the growing trend of multi-site churches in America. These churches have everything the same as a normal service (e.g., worship band, childcare), with the exception that the preaching is via video on a screen rather than live. On Sunday, January 22, we undertook a new season in the history of Mars Hill Church. I preached at the 8:30 a.m. service and then returned home to care for my wife and five children, including our youngest, Gideon Joseph, only days old. The other services at our large facility (10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.) all had me preaching via video. On the same day, we also launched our first off-site video venue in the northern suburbs of the city. We were hoping for 200 people and had an amazing first service of 450 people. The room was filled beyond capacity and that site already needs to expand to multiple services. Many new people showed up simply because we had missionally gone into their neighborhood, rather than expecting them to drive out of their neighborhood and into the city. Overall, the day was a great success in one of America’s least churched cities where there are more dogs than evangelical Christians. Subsequently, in addition to continuing to support church planters, we are now also investigating where to expand our church next. It seems probable that we could be a church meeting in many locations and sharing the resources of a large church while providing the relational intimacy of a smaller church.

For those pastors and Christian leaders who are curious about this trend there is a great book coming out that I believe is the first of its kind. It is called The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations and is written by my friends Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird. It is part of the Leadership Network Innovation Series and, along with my book Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, is due out in the spring as the first in the series.

I had the pleasure of reading a pre-release copy of The Multi-Site Church Revolution and found the following quotes insightful and hopefully incentive for you to purchase the book when it is released (used with permission):

  • Well over 1,500 churches are already multi-site.
  • One out of four megachurches [a megachurch is a church of 2,000 or more in attendance] is holding services at multiple locations.
  • One out of three churches says it is thinking about developing a new service in a new location.
  • The multi-site movement is represented in every area of the country, across many denominations, and in churches of all sizes, especially those with attendances of 250 and up.
  • We predict that 30,000 American churches will be multi-site within the next few years, which means one or more multi-site churches will probably be in your area.
  • [Twenty] percent [of churches] need to consider multi-site immediately because they are growing and face lack-of-space problems, whether seating or parking or both. Multi-site might save these churches huge amounts of money that would otherwise be poured into a facility-expansion program.
  • Up to 20 percent more could successfully experiment with multi-site using a low-risk approach.
  • Nine of the ten largest churches in the U.S. are multi-site with the only exception being Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen in Houston, Texas.

With a reported 3,500 churches dying and closing each year in this country, 80 percent of churches reportedly plateaued or declining, and an average reported attendance of around eighty and actual attendance of fifty to sixty, it seems imperative that churches who have successfully learned how to reach their community do so as many times and in as many locations as possible. Subsequently, the future of the church in America seems to be moving toward very large multi-site megachurches and very small house meta-churches.

The most common criticism of video venues is that they are impersonal. But the hard truth is that, generally speaking, if a pastor is a gifted preacher, their church will grow. As it does, people will be watching the sermon on screens at the back of the room, or watching a video feed on an overflow screen in another room. Furthermore, as a church grows, the relational center of the church is not one pastor but rather a team of leaders that makes a church healthier and more diverse. Subsequently, the alternative to an impersonal church with a gifted preacher is a personable church with a less gifted preacher. If the goal of the church is to reach new people and not just connect with existing people, then a degree of inaccessibility to the preaching pastor must be accepted and other pastors must be raised up alongside of him to care for people.

Lastly, some pastors and churches will feel threatened by the ever-growing footprint of larger churches expanding into new communities through the use of video technology. But, what has been most surprising to me as we have transitioned to a multi-site video sermon format is the number of pastors from smaller and struggling churches who have contacted us to inquire about plugging in to Mars Hill. They each articulate that they enjoy the pastoral work of caring for people but struggle with the management of their church and carrying a pulpit every week. To them, the thought of a larger church with a large staff taking over the administrative duties and allowing them to function as a site pastor sounds like a relief. The site pastor, who cares for people and covers the pulpit roughly eight to twelve times a year, is freed up to work in their area of gifting most effectively. In the end, perhaps the multi-site revolution will become a win for larger churches, a win for smaller struggling churches, and a win for lost people.

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January 31, 2006 in Multi-Site Churches | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, January 30, 2006

Pastor: Give Me Back My Gun and Passport!

GunpassportCHARGED with 38 counts of fraud amounting to several million dollars, Pastor Vishnu Lutchmansingh begged in court yesterday for the police to return his gun.

Lutchmansingh, who is said to have convinced people into believing he was worth 900 billion pounds sterling, also pleaded for his passport to be returned.

Lutchmansingh, the founder of the Faith Sanctuary Family Ministry in Cunupia, surrendered to police last Saturday after learning of a warrant for his arrest.

He spent the night in a police station cell and was released on Sunday evening after a San Fernando doctor used his property as collateral to stand the $4.7 million bail.

Wearing a dark suit, Lutchmansingh came to court yesterday with a group of men similarly dressed. They attempted to sit in an area of the San Fernando First Magistrates' Court reserved for female prisoners but were ordered by police to sit in the public gallery.

It took the magistrate 47 minutes to read the charges to Lutchmansingh who stood alone before the court, sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning, and looking to the ceiling.

Twenty-nine of the charges related to the alleged defrauding of Shaheed Mohammed the president of Nutrimix. Mohammed was allegedly swindled a total of $2 million over a three-year period by Lutchmansingh, a father of two.

The charges indicated that Mohammed gave various amounts of money in cheques to Lutchmansingh who falsely purported that one Budford Keaton, of Kentucky, United States, who died on January 13, 1997, had left an estate worth billions of pounds sterling and that Lutchmansingh was the sole beneficiary of the estate by virtue of a will dated December 24, 1996.

-- from Trinidad & Tobago Express

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January 30, 2006 in For What It's Worth | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Suburbanization of the Church

Suburbs Obviously, I don't agree with everything printed here at MMI.  Here's an article I found from back in 2003 over at ChroniclesMagazine.org that I found that I don't necessarily agree with (primarily because the author doesn't suggest any answers or ways he would change things; he only seems to point out what he dislikes).  It fits in well with many of the conversations we've had here at MMI over the past weeks on the issue of 'relevance'.  See what you think...

Willow Creek Community Church belongs in the suburbs, its massive campus sprawling across a stretch of drained swampland in greater Chicago. The members of Willow Creek are, by and large, suburbanites, and the “programming” behind the “services” at Willow is custom-made for them. The attendants wear polo shirts; the messages are relevant; and all of the members of the band and the drama team are committed to excellence.

“And He gave some apostles, some prophets, some lead guitarists . . . ” This is most certainly true, because, as Bill Hybels, the founder and “lead pastor” of Willow discovered, “lost people matter to God.” Unbelievers—the “unchurched,” in Willow parlance—are turned off by poor-quality musicianship and acting in church; ergo, if we care about lost people, we simply will not set before them thespians or adult-contemporary artists who are not appropriately gifted. We will, however, provide them with a food court (a “safe place” for “meaningful dialogue”), group therapy (a “small group” in which to become a “fully devoted follower of Christ”), and lots and lots of community. The midweek services at Willow—designed for members (averaging 7,000 in attendance), as opposed to the weekend “Seeker Services” (averaging 17,500)—are the “New Community.”

According to Bill’s wife, Lynne (in Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church), Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, Hybels’ mentor, inspired Bill in the mid-70’s to “do something truly great with your life . . . commit yourself to Jesus’ vision of establishing communities of God here on this earth.” On another occasion, “Dr. B.” advised Bill to “just do Acts 2!”

Just doing Acts 2, Hybels programmed an environment free of the trappings of traditional Christianity—the stained glass, the pulpit, the hymnody—which were, in his estimation, stifling genuine community. He freely admits that he was embarrassed when, back in high school, he had brought the “wildest kid in school” with him to his staunch Dutch church, filled with the “already convinced.” After the

ancient hymns . . . it went south. They did a stand-up-sit-down thing several times, and the kid never did catch on. He listened, mystified, as a vocalist sang of seraphim and cherubim. Then there was the Creed. This was a hit, since the veterans had it memorized and Bill’s friend had to stand there conspicuously mute. . . . Then came the sermon. No, please no, not the minor prophets, Bill pleaded silently. But sure enough . . . Amos . . . locusts . . .

This attitude toward the biblical traditions of the Church is increasingly common. Most traditional churches today have either succumbed to this mentality—to varying degrees—or have at least encountered it, usually in the face of a vociferous group demanding that this church wake up to reality before it is too late! If lost people matter at all to us, we must be willing to change!

Willow has been one of the chief vehicles effecting that change. Churches of any denomination that are hemorrhaging members or are just bored with Amos and locusts can join the Willow Creek Association and, for an annual fee of $249, retain the consulting services of Willow and be provided with musical tab sheets, relevant sermon ideas, and a plan to create genuine “biblical” community. This plan is, in fact, a “proven process” to make your church “contagious . . . no matter its size, style, or location.” To put all of this into perspective, consider: There are now over 9,500 churches, of various denominations, in the Willow Creek Association; the entire Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod consists of 6,145 congregations.

What is this elusive community that these churches so desperately covet? And, isn’t it a little bit ironic that suburbanization, the very thing that destroyed real communities all over the United States, is being applied so passionately to the Church, in an attempt to restore community? Hybels and his wife describe their dreams of establishing an Acts 2 church in this way:

We dreamed of a place where the Word of God would be communicated in an irresistibly compelling way. . . . of people getting together informally in small groups and meeting in homes and taking meals together and talking about real-life issues. . . . of a church that would be distinct and countercultural, in which affluent members . . . would funnel their excess resources back into the local fellowship for distribution to the needy.

Isn’t this what Saint Luke describes when he records that “all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need”? Not quite. The events of Pentecost centered on and were shaped by Saint Peter’s preaching of the Gospel, and the Jerusalem community that arose after “they that gladly received his word were baptized” was devoted, first and foremost, to the “apostles’ doctrine.” God’s Word itself gave birth to that community, not the careful programming of the Twelve.

As E. Michael Jones points out in this issue, suburbanization is a means of control, power, “management.” The ethos of the suburbanite, by design, is servitude, deracination, discomfort. Those who were driven or lured to the suburbs left behind real communities rooted in time and place. They exchanged their ethnic and cultural identities for sameness. All of the houses looked the same, and all of the people began to look and sound the same. All of them consumed the same mass media and ate at the same chain restaurants. These were the first “new communities.”

The Willow Creek model suburbanizes both Christians and churches. It steals away people from dowdy, established, Amos-and-locusts churches and cuts them off at the roots from their historic traditions, liturgies, and neighborhoods. They even have their own mass media to inculcate sameness.

And what of those “seekers” longing for community, those lost people who do indeed matter to God? The Willow Creek model draws them to the “Seeker Service” not through the prophetic, apocalyptic preaching of the Apostles’ doctrine (“Men of Israel . . . Jesus of Nazareth . . . ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up . . . ”) but by the same cultural ethos to which they are enslaved—the therapeutic message of a Jesus Who meets the felt needs of suburban life.

So powerful is the darkness of the hour, so deracinated are the Christians that attend the remaining traditional churches, so divorced are they from their own theology, that it is only a matter of time before someone asks your pastor, “Have you ever heard about a place called Willow Creek?” The signs that this has already happened are obvious to those who are properly catechized: the emergence of the word unchurched in place of unbelievers; the addition of a “contemporary” service; the removal of the pulpit; the proclamation of a need for a “small-group ministry”; or, the most obvious, the announcement of plans to sell the old building, badly in need of repairs anyway, and to purchase some “prime acreage” at the edge of town.

What are your first thoughts?  I'll share mine in a bit! :)


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January 30, 2006 in Trends in Today's Church | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

How Big is Your Vision

Vision by Rick Warren from The Christian Post:

Over the years, I've learned that – contrary to popular opinion – the bigger the vision, the easier it is to reach that vision, and, ultimately, the size of your vision should be determined by the size of God.

How big do you think God is? The issue is not who do you think you are, but who do you think God is? In your dreams for your ministry, don’t limit yourself by saying, “What can I do?” Instead ask, “What can God do in this place?”

Determining the size of your vision
When determining the size of your vision you need to keep three factors in mind. The first factor is the ultimate population of your ministry area. Obviously, if a church planter is going to start a new church, he doesn’t plan a church of 2,000 in a town that only has 500 people in it. Be pragmatic.

I tell people: Go get a map of your community, draw a circle that would include approximately 15 minutes' driving distance to your church and find out how many people are in that area. Then you say, “Ultimately, we want to try to reach everybody. We know we can’t reach everybody. But we assume the responsibility for reaching everybody. We pray that other churches will reach people, but we want to assume responsibility for that.”

A lifetime investment
The second factor is a question only you can answer: How long do you intend to stay there? There’s an old saying: Inch by inch, anything is a cinch.

Most of us overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years or 20 years. The trouble with most goal setting is we set our goals too low and try to accomplish them too soon.

Instead, we need to set big goals, huge goals, enormous goals, but plan on plenty of time in getting there. I tell everyone who comes on staff with us, “We don’t expect a miracle overnight. Let’s build.” We’re not interested in building a mushroom. We’re interested in building an oak tree. A mushroom takes 12 hours to grow; an oak tree takes 60 years. But an oak tree is going to last.

To reach big goals, you have to plan for the long haul in ministry. There are lots of flash-in-the-pan churches. There are churches that have grown larger than our church in a shorter amount of time. There was a church once near Saddleback Church that started with 1,200 people within the first month, but a year later the church was dead. It didn’t build the structure. It didn’t build the roots. It didn’t build all the other factors. Everything rises or falls on leadership.

So how long will you stay there? If you don’t plan on staying someplace for the long haul, don’t go there. You must plan for time. Persistence is the key in reaching a large goal. Conversely, the size of your goal will be determined by how much of your life you plan to spend in reaching it.

Vision and your giftedness
The third factor for determining the size of your vision is a frank appraisal of your own gifts. The Bible makes very clear that there are one-talent people and five-talent people and ten-talent people.

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January 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ministering to Introverts

Introvert Here's an interesting article written by Mandy Smith, featured recently in The Christian Standard:

Imagine hearing the following at the opening of your next church service:

Welcome! We’re going to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth today. So let’s strip off all encumbrances by removing our shoes, socks, and accessories. Now, grab someone new and give them a hug. Go on, don’t be shy. In fact, the Bible tells us to greet one another with a holy kiss! Now, empty out the contents of your pockets and purses and form small groups to examine them together. Open up to those around you. Tell them your fears and weaknesses so you can feel the love of your Christian family.

How comfortable would this intro make you feel? A few people might relish the attention, but most would be hesitant to divulge the contents of their pockets, or even of their shoes. All imaginary scenarios aside, I’ve come to understand that a significant group in our churches feel this uncomfortable on a regular basis.

They are introverts—commonly misunderstood1 by churches and church leaders who thrive on experiences that extroverts prefer.

Clearing Up the Misconception
Introverts are not always shy. In fact, research has shown that introverts are often very sensitive to subtle social signals and may simply be reacting to information others just don’t see.2 In our culture it’s a compliment to be told you’re extroverted—it means you’re happy and sociable. On the other hand, introverts are frequently thought to be reclusive, self-centered, or anti-social. But introverts care for others no less than extroverts; they simply show it in different ways.

While their sensitivities may make introverts seem weak, introversion actually creates many strengths—including great depth and insight—allowing them to be gifted leaders, speakers, teachers, and visionaries.3 In fact, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and, believe it or not, Steve Martin, are among the ranks of the introverted.4

It’s important to look at the three main differences between introverts and extroverts:

1. The ways they get energy—Extroverts receive energy from external stimulus, while introverts get energy from the inner thought world. As a result, even if introverts perform well in social settings, they are often drained by people and need time alone to recuperate.

2. The ways they respond to stimulation—Extroverts thrive in environments that provide multisensory stimulation. Introverts, on the other hand, have a busy inner world and can easily be overwhelmed by external stimulation. That’s why introverts may be reserved and prefer quiet environments.

3. Their approach to knowledge and experience—Extroverts like to absorb as much as they can from their environment; they crave variety and breadth. Their introverted counterparts prefer depth; they invest energy in select areas. This is why they may be careful about choosing activities and may be hesitant to offer their feelings or ideas.5

Perhaps by now certain friends are coming to mind (or maybe you’re the introvert calling "Amen!"—albeit silently!) Let’s look at how these introverted traits intersect with common church practice and how church leaders can make introverts feel welcome and valued.

Does the Church Ask Too Much of Introverts?
1. Responsiveness during services—The words of influential worship leader Matt Redman sum up the message given, directly or indirectly, by many contemporary worship leaders: "Our Heavenly Father loves us with an extravagant abandon. Passionate, undignified worship is our only reasonable response."6 Of course, worship should be heartfelt, but can’t we allow for worshipers who express themselves in invisible ways?

But the "worship service" isn’t the only time we require responsiveness: some preachers feel they haven’t touched people unless they’ve heard "amens" or seen heads nodding during their sermons. Churches that use postmodern models often get very experimental in their effort to create worship experiences; they might ask people to move around the room, remove their shoes, or create works of art during services. These activities can be effective but they can also be very disconcerting for introverts; the experience rarely feels authentic.

Other churches require those who are seeking a relationship with God to walk to the front to make their decision. There’s no doubt God desires a response of some kind, but are we requiring more than Scripture requires? Perhaps we would elicit a more natural worship response (visible or invisible) from introverts if we included such introvert-friendly elements as acoustic music, times of quiet meditation, and deep exploration of Scripture.

2. Obligatory involvement in a small group—Small groups can be great for introverts because they provide an opportunity to connect with a few people at a time. But leaders often give the message that until someone is in a small group, he or she is not really part of the church. For many churches, small groups are organized so that participants are forced to meet with those they don’t know and prodded to share what they’d prefer to keep private. Although small groups can be meaningful for all personality types, Joseph Myers’s conclusion in The Search to Belong should make us think twice. He says, "Often our small group models encourage forced belonging."7

3. Evangelism according to an extrovert model—Recently, new approaches to evangelism have surfaced. For many Christians, however, evangelism still means talking intimately with strangers—a frightening prospect for most introverts. Even friendship evangelism has its challenges for the introvert, who prefers a small group of intimate friends to a large group of acquaintances.

By no means should introverts be given a "get out of evangelism free" card—it’s a challenge for everyone. However, church leaders need to offer resources and methods that are useful to them.

What Does the Bible Have to Say About All This?
The Bible doesn’t deal directly with introversion. However, the Bible does describe characters with vastly different personalities (contrast David’s spectacular worship in 2 Samuel 6:14-23 and Paul’s timidity in 2 Corinthians 10:1) without condemning one or the other. We also know that the Bible allows for many different kinds of people in the church (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).

Admittedly, New Testament Christians were asked to greet one another with a "holy kiss" (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14), but we must question if this was an enforced part of the worship service or a natural greeting. It seems to me these passages focus on the commandment to greet one another and to do so in a way that is holy.8

Finally, we must also take the example of Paul to be all things to all men, in order to win some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). He challenges us to remain unwavering in our dedication to the central truths of the faith, without forcing issues of culture or personality. It’s not always possible for us to be introverts to the introverted, but we can at least appreciate their unique approach to the world.

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January 30, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Help for the "We've Always Done it That Way" Church Pastor

OldladyThis from ChurchOver40.com:

Pastors can become very busy doing many things. Which are the most important? What few things must a pastor do well if a traditional congregation is to transition successfully? Here is our list of seven critical success factors for the transitioning pastor:

Self-Management – A pastor’s leadership ability sets a norm and a boundary for the congregation’s growth. If the pastor is not growing, the church will rarely be. It is not unreasonable to suggest that fully half of the pastor’s focus and energy (not necessarily time) be devoted to management of self. There is no shortcut to this process. No one can do it for anyone else. The management of self involves personal spiritual practices, dedication to primary relationships, an accountability partner or group, ongoing learning, and self-care. Over time, it results in wisdom, compassion, and authenticity. The landscape is littered with clergy and clergy families broken by neglect of this important work.

Passion for Impact – Pastors who lead transition care deeply about results. They are not content to simply “play church.” They are constantly asking, “Are lives being changed? Is the community being impacted?” The Bible calls this fruitfulness. Jesus said, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.” (John 15:5) Fruitfulness is not limited to conversion growth, but certainly includes it.

Lifelong Learning – Pastors who lead change in traditional congregations are continually learning. They have an insatiable curiosity about life and ministry, which they feed with ideas garnered through books, websites, magazines, interviews, and site visits. These pastors practice what one researcher called, “Steal and Adopt.” They visit other congregations (often with a group, see #5 below) to observe what is working there. They then ask, “Could this approach be adopted in our congregation? If so, what modifications should be made?” This is not a copycat approach, but rather an aversion to reinventing the wheel. It is essential that new approaches be tailored to the uniqueness of one’s local context.

Resilience – These pastors are difficult to run off. They are tenacious in their commitment to follow-through. They understand that renewal usually requires persistent focused effort over time. While they are sympathetic to those who complain, they refuse to cut back the congregation’s vision to appease people. If church members put these pastors in a bind in which they will continue in relationship only if the pastors abandon the renewal initiatives, these pastors choose the initiatives over the relationships every time. They remain clear and connected: clear about their support of the church’s vision and its demands, and connected with those who are threatening disaster, attempting to sabotage the change process, and wanting to go back to Egypt. Wisdom about spiritual warfare is a key component of this pastoral resilience.

Team Building – No pastor ever led renewal alone. Successful transition requires the combined efforts of many dedicated people. The New Testament teaches that cooperative effort is essential to healthy congregations: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly.” (Romans 12:6) Pastors who lead transition in long-established churches work intentionally with teams. They train and equip God’s people for works of service, deploying teams in gifts-based ministries. Their focus is not on taking credit but on what gets done to the glory of God.

6. Conflict Management – Many people equate conflict with quarrels, feuds, and arguments. They seek to avoid conflict at all costs. Pastors in transitioning congregations see conflict as neutral; our response is what determines whether the conflict helps or hinders the congregation’s pursuit of its mission. Conflict over change in church is natural and inevitable. Wise pastors embrace conflict. They have a high tolerance for people not getting along for awhile because they have learned that from such seasons of unrest, new ideas and approaches flow. Conflict generates energy, and these pastors seek to use it to improve communication, clarify values, and drive innovation.

7. Humor – Pastors who lead change in traditional congregations are blessed with good humor. They smile easily and laugh often. They are Christian optimists. For them, there is no failure, only feedback. They are serious about church renewal, but they have the ability to laugh at themselves. They know that God will ultimately determine the results of their efforts, so they make it their aim to please God. Leading renewal in a reluctant congregation is a hard road to travel, but for these pastors there is joy in the journey.

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January 30, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack